Social agencies already have great resources they've developed over many years, often on limited budgets.
What if there was an easy way they could share their knowledge with others working on similar issues? Using Creative Commons licenses, the great work that's been done already can be shared with the community, combined with other materials, updated as needed, and used by anyone to address needs for awareness, training, or fundraising. Here's an example:
Meet Shawn. Shawn is the president of a community literacy group. Using donations from the community's annual campaign, his volunteer committee of librarians and retired teachers has developed a resource kit for libraries. This resource kit includes learning activities and self-assessment tools, and it's distributed to the members and libraries who have said they need help.
Meet Janet. Janet works at a community college several hours away, has some funding to develop a resource to help new immigrants in the community learn English as a second language - ESL. She finds the resource kit from Shawn's group at her local library and thinks it's a wonderful idea.
Under traditional copyright, Shawn's group automatically owns copyright to those materials. If Janet wants to use the resource, she must first find Shawn's group and ask permission to use and adapt their materials for the immigrant community they serve. However, Shawn's literacy group recognizes that organizations who help immigrants could get a lot of use out of their materials if they're allowed to use and adapt them for teaching ESL.
This is where a Creative Commons license comes in. By enhancing their copyright with a Creative Commons license, Shawn's literacy group can allow the immigrant support organization - or anyone - to freely to use the resource kit, as long as they attribute the original creator without having to first ask for permission. It's like giving someone permission to use something you make ahead of time.
She knows that license means she already has permission to use the literacy resource kit, and to revise it to add in ESL components. Janet happily adapts the resource kit, attributes it to the literacy group, and then uses it for their ESL resources. Janet sends her revised tool kit back to Shawn's group via email so that they can use it as well.
The Creative Commons license comes with different attributes: a "Share-Alike" license allows someone to expand or change a work as needed, as long as they credit the original source (in this case by linking back to the literacy group's web site), AND share their newly created re-mixed resource with the same license. A "No Derivatives" license means anyone can re-use the resource as-is, but cannot make any changes to the resource.
By using Creative Commons, organizations working on social issues create an environment where resources are freely shared and expanded over time by a wider community. The more a CC-licensed resource is used, the more feedback an organization has that it's working. It's like an ongoing peer-review evaluation process - and it's free and easy to use.
Open licensing allows for the formation of communities where information is shared, and value is created within the new and exciting relationships that are formed as a result.